The Titanic rises again: China makes history by remaking it
Replica of ill-fated ship to be a tourist attraction in Daying
By Saša Petricic, CBC News Posted: Aug 09, 2017 5:00 AM ET Last Updated: Aug 09, 2017 5:00 AM ET
In China's southern province of Sichuan, more than 1,000 kilometres from the nearest ocean, work is well underway on a near-exact replica of one of the biggest and most famous ships ever made.
The ill-fated Titanic struck an iceberg and sank south of Newfloundand in 1912 during its maiden voyage from England, killing more than 1,500 passengers and crew.
The project is meant to attract up to 10 million tourists a year. But this isn't just an attraction — it will be a real ship, with a steel hull designed to support it, floating in a land-locked basin in Daying.
The project's developers say visitors will be able to see the famous ship exactly the way it was when it sailed from Southampton on its way to New York. There will be a theatre and ballroom, a swimming pool and luxurious first-class cabins guests can pay to stay in. All of it replicated with the help of the original blueprints and photos.
Workers are currently building the bow, the very front perch made famous by Leonardo DiCaprio in the 1997 James Cameron epic Titanic. This is where he stood and screamed, "I'm the king of the world." The project's developers say the movie so captivated Chinese viewers that it made sense to build the replica here.
The private developer says he hopes Chinese visitors will even learn something about the heroism that inspired some on board the original Titanic to rescue many women and children. Su Shaojun says he worries that kind of selflessness doesn't exist in China today.
"I think Chinese society now needs these models of responsibility," he says.
Some things have changed in shipbuilding in the past century. The massive steel plates of the new Titanic are being welded, while the original ocean liner was held together with rivets. New, lighter material could also make the replica much more efficient.
Chief engineer Shi Hang also says the engines needed to push a 269-metre-long ship like the Titanic could be half the size of those in the original ship. Though, as he points out, the engine compartment and the massive mock-ups aboard this replica will look like the originals.
Other things haven't changed. It still takes hundreds of workers to get the job done. Many of the replica builders have experience in China's military shipyards. The cost of the project, at more than $200 million, will likely exceed the price of the original in today's dollars.
And it is expected to take at least as long to finish. The original Titanic was built in just over two years. The replica could take close to three before the first visitors pay to come on board, expected some time in 2019.
The project, with all its glitzy hype, has offended some relatives of Titanic passengers.
Jean Legg, daughter of survivor Sidney Daniels, says, "I think if he knew this was being replicated, he would be turning in his grave."
The developer says he never meant to offend. Part of his goal, he says, is to help people remember.